From My Perspective:
National Awareness Growing about School Leadership!
With recent publication focused on the increasing awareness and acknowledgement of the pivotal role school leadership can play to increase student achievement, I am heartened that the importance of developing and supporting school leaders is being acknowledged as a key component for our schools!
Those of us having been in the principal's shoes have known all along how critical a role leadership plays for every single child in every school. Yes, teachers are the closest levers to making the very greatest difference for each and every student, but, the old adage of not having a great school full of teachers without a great leader still has not budged an inch in value.
Gregory F. Branch, Eric A. Hanushek, and Steven G. Rivkin recently published a piece in Educationnext (Winter 2013 / Vol. 13, No. 1) entitled Measuring the Impact of Effective Principals. This Texas- based article researched and demonstrated that effective principals increased student learning by seven months in a single school year. The longer the effective principal stayed in an urban, high poverty school, the higher the achievement of students from year to year.
The Wallace Foundation's research, upon which most of School Leaders Network's strategy is based, outlines five core levers critical for the school leader to become highly skilled at doing: shaping vision, creating climate, cultivating campus leadership, improving instruction and managing people, data and processes. Wallace proves that if school leaders can effectively hold these skills then teacher capacity and student achievement rises and accelerate.
New Leaders recent publication: Playmakers: How Great Principals Build and Lead Great Teams of Teachers points to the same outcome: invest in our school leaders, help them grow and develop their skills in managing talent, developing teachers and creating great places to work and student success will rise. Once again, school leadership is coming to the forefront of both local and national conversations. Increasing the capacity of school leadership is critical for increased student achievement!
School Leaders Network develops good to great principals into powerful leaders of change in schools across the country. The School Leaders Network's Design for Leading Framework is a pivotal engine for increasing the skills and capacities of school leaders to create change in high poverty schools across our nation. Recently, Education Week (Nov 14, 2012) featured a Commentary by Arthur L. Costa, Robert J. Garmston, and Diane P. Zimmerman Cognitive Capital: An Investment in Teacher Quality. In this opinion, they cited that "the best path to self-efficacy, and indeed collective efficacy is for a teacher to take time with colleagues.... in a continuous spiral of inquiry. When teachers join together and become more conscious of their ability to make a difference, then demonstrate true craftsmanship....they develop a vast storehouse of knowledge that enriches and expands their knowledge about teaching and learning". Indeed, the exact same quote could be used for school leaders: if they work collaboratively with a trained facilitator, collaboratively coach each other, hold each other accountable for transformational changes on each other's campus; teacher capacity and student achievement will RISE.
Lastly, Jonathan Schorr writes in the latest Stanford Social Innovation Review about A Revolution Begins in Teacher Prep (Winter, 2013, Vol 11, Nov 1): Relay Graduate School of Education in New York and its new path to teacher effectiveness. Norman Atkins, Relay's president, is looking for a "knockout punch" for performance- based teacher preparation programs. A knockout punch to me would be the increased attention to those school leaders who have pivotal roles across the whole campus, across the ability to increase teacher capacity, changing the climate of schools to one of urgency so that all children have a greater chance for academic success.
Performance-based approaches to support and develop "good to great school leaders", where there is an opportunity to increase learning, share support and mutual accountability regularly, accelerate leadership skills using the Wallace proven levers, and create transformational change on high poverty campuses across the nation is the charge of School Leaders Network. Working in conjunction with reform minded partners across this sector, we can greatly transform leadership capacity for our students' success today and tomorrow. Let's get the right candidates in the pipeline, prepare them well with innovative and effective capacity, and then continue to support and develop them with efficacious, researched based and proven evaluation - tried methods, such as School Leaders Network, so students will have the very best shot for success.
Elizabeth Neale, Ed.D.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
School Leaders Network